Thoughts on school leaders and what they bring to our own practice: Part 1
I woke up to snow this morning. When I went for a walk it was so very quiet outside. The only sounds I heard was the icy snow crunching beneath my feet, and the scurrying of the animals prepping for the next front of this storm. The peace and quiet after a snow cannot be underestimated. It allows for the thoughts to flow freely. I started thinking about the leaders who helped me grow along the way; good, bad, and in between.
I was spoiled early on in my education career by a leader who is no longer with us. He saw me coaching athletics at another school; hired me as in a classified position supporting students, and then grew me into a teacher/coach, and then an admin. He said he “hired good people and then let them to their jobs”, and he modeled that. He was a giant of a man who had the respect of all who worked with him. He had your back in public, and corrected you in private. He had great vision and communicated it well. He had high expectations of me, and of himself. I didn’t realize at the time how rare he was. I truly thought he was a norm in leadership. I have spent a great deal of time reflecting on those early lessons, and how they impacted me.
One of the most challenging leaders I had was during my work as a high school principal. I came into the position having been supported by those that came before so I was completely unprepared for what I experienced. I remember someone telling me when I took the position that I “was the right person for the job but the support structure wasn’t there”. The school had had five principals in the six years prior. (Where’s your sign?) That colleague was worried the politics would chew me up. They did, but that wasn’t the biggest challenge.
The single most overwhelming challenge I had was inexperienced leadership in my direct up-line. There was no support. There were edicts and punitive responses. He was trying to make me into a mirror-image of himself so that I was easier to manage. I didn’t stay true to my core values that pushed me to make “good trouble” as Representative John Lewis would have said. I don’t say this in a victim mode as I learned so very much about myself from that experience. I wasn’t the best leader I could have been. I fell into negative patterns that fed into the same in the team I worked with. I learned I was not the aberration but the norm within the system of administrators experiencing the same, and not to take those issues on as mine. I do believe I left the school better than I found it, but I could have been better. I could have done more.
My takeaway? Be better. Just be better. Do more. Be true to your heart, and your beliefs. Think about human capacity building first. Soak up every single lesson that life sends your way. Every one … even the negative ones … will come in handy at some point in time.
Listen to the voices that are out there. They might be speaking directly to you.
Use your voice. You are important.
This will be an ongoing reflection as I think through this a bit more. I welcome your thoughts.
In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy this snow that is on the way. It’s something I haven’t seen much of in the last few years. I’d rather be hiking but perhaps the snow is designed to slow me down and do some thinking about big things.
Time to go find the wool socks and the beanie that I have packed away.
Enjoy your day!